Thursday, July 21, 2016

Saddleback Maine must not become a Lost Ski Area!

The following is text of a on-line petition I created with Susan Sheehan to show support for Saddleback and the efforts to obtain a new owner for the mountain. Below is the text of the petition and to sign, please click here.

Saddleback, Maine: Bigger than You Think. Different from the Rest. Highest base elevation of any New England ski area.
There is a mystique to Saddleback that is timeless and awe inspiring. It imprints vividly on any visitor.
Economically it is critical to the town of Rangeley, Franklin County, the state of Maine, and New England skiing as a whole.
As the pending sale of Saddleback has moved through weeks and months and now past a year since the July 2015 announcement, it is easy to get frustrated with the progress.
We all depend on Saddleback in different ways. Some of us depend on Saddleback to put food on the table and pay the bills. Some of us depend on Saddleback to satisfy our outdoor recreational pursuits. Some of us depend on Saddleback just to get away from it all and be at peace with ourselves and our families.
For most all of us… Saddleback is home.
“The mountains are calling and I must go”- John Muir
- Is Saddleback calling you?
- Do you miss skiing at Saddleback?
- Are you anxiously awaiting news to plan your winter adventures?
We, the signers of this petition, are ready to come back and work and/or ski at Saddleback.
The signers of this petition appreciate all the hard work and investments made by the Berry family to improve Saddleback over the last 10+ years. We ask that Saddleback management, prospective buyer(s) and the Berry family to keep working hard to do everything possible to come to a successful conclusion and make lift serviced skiing once again available this coming season. We will do our best to be open to the changes needed to make Saddleback a sustainable business and we will support Saddleback as best we are able.
Saddleback, Maine must not become a Lost Ski Area. Please sign this petition to show your support and use the comment box to tell everyone why Saddleback is a special place for you.
To sign the petition, please click here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

One Year Later - Saddleback Maine Status Unclear

It has been a while since we posted on the blog! We put the miserable winter behind us and we are in full-summer mode and enjoying all that Maine has to offer in the warmer months. Our boys will both be off to college this fall so change is in the air for us! I still see skiing in our future.

It has been about a year since Saddleback announced they would not open unless financing was obtained for a replacement for the Rangeley chair lift. After many announcements, the mountain did not open for the 2015-16 ski season and there is still uncertainty as to the status for the upcoming season.

When something is ready to be announced, I am sure they will tell us all. Is there still hope? Sure. Chris Farmer, the Saddleback GM is still at the mountain. Public information is limited and the rumours, while entertaining, are really just guesses. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed for something to happen to allow lift service skiing at Saddleback this winter... and hope the snow returns in a big way for all the ski resorts in Maine!

Enjoy the rest of your summer everyone.

- The @MaineSkiFamily crew.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Family Skiing in.. New York

Riding the Triple at Labrador. 
We are on a weekend getaway to visit our oldest son Alec at Ithaca College in New York. We brought our skis but it rained pretty hard on the drive over from Maine, so our hopes for decent skiing were not high. Fortunately, we drove far enough west into the backside of the storm which was colder, and the local ski areas picked up a few inches of snow through the overnight. We ended up have a very pleasant ski afternoon at Labrador Mountain.

Alec is a member of the Ithaca College club alpine race team, and Labrador was his home mountain. He visited many other mountains in the area for races including Toggenburg, Greek Peak and Bristol Mountain.

Alec finding some fresh snow at Labrador

Most of the ski areas in central upstate New York are 'medium sized'. They offer around 1000 feet of vertical and most offer night skiing. While smaller in size, many (like Greek Peak and Bristol) offer high speed quad lifts. For our Maine readers, Labrador was like a "Mini Mt. Abram". Not quite as big but a similar feel with fixed griped chairs and old school feel. It is usually quite cold in this neck of the woods so snowmaking is key and they offer snowmaking coverage on most of the trails. Labrador has a roomy base lodge that was filled with kids participating in after school programs... some better behaved than others as usual!

Isaac finding some powder - literally our first real powder turns of the year.
It was a very fun afternoon and we were quite pleased to find some fresh snow. March is usually the best month of the year to ski. Lets hope mother nature blesses us with a storm or two back in Maine!

Here is a ski edit of our day.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 2016 Vacation Week - Racing and a bit of everything at Wildcat

What a whirlwind school vacation week! Our youngest son Isaac participated in the Maine Class A Alpine ski championships at Mt. Abram. The event was delayed a day by another day of miserable rain, followed by colder conditions which created an extremely icy course for both the Giant Slalom and Slalom events. Isaac did very well overall, as he placed in the upper half of the field in GS and upper third of the field in Slalom and stayed up on his feet all four runs. Being our senior, this was our last high school event. It has been a great 9 years of watching our kids participate in the Freeport Middle and High School Teams!

Isaac racing in his last state High School meet
Our oldest son Alec is off at Ithaca college and he joined the IC Alpine Club race team. He has been all over upstate New York participating in USCSA races. He just completed regionals and had a fine year and had a lot of fun. He feels like he improved his race skills quite a bit.

Alec racing Slalom in -15 temperatures!
What we really live for is our free skis and lots of natural snow. Sadly this year has been lacking in the snow department. Our favorite mountain Saddleback is still closed and it has just been a bummer snow year so far. We decided to close out our school vacation week at Wildcat in New Hampshire.
Wildcat from the Parking Lot
They have a nice Sunday afternoon $30 lift ticket and they reported a bit of fresh snow over the weekend. It was quite literally three different mountains.

Top 1/4 - Nice soft powder turns and we skied our first natural snow trails of the year. Some of the best ski turns of the year.
Middle 1/2 - ROCK SOLID ICE. Firmest conditions I have ever skied. It must of rained and froze mid-mountain. Some of the worst skiing of the year.
Bottom 1/4 - The very bottom loosened up for some spring like conditions.

Very weird day. We wanted to keep going up to the top to ski the fluff but the middle was so awful it didn't make it worth it. Just a continuation of this weird winter we are having.

Regardless, a day skiing is better than staring at the mud in the yard. We are enjoying getting up late on weekends this year and doing half days at the hill.

Here is a video edit of our day.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Afternoon Ski Day = Fun Day at Mt. Abram

A recent article by Maine skier and writer Josh Christie reminded us that a afternoon of skiing can be a lot of fun. We tried it today with a Sunday afternoon day at Mt. Abram and yes, it was a lot of fun!

While waiting for winter to arrive Mt. Abram is putting out a very good product. One of my favorite
Isaac getting some air at Mt. Abram
trails in Maine, Fearless Leader, is open and skiing great. As we drove up to Mt. Abram late in the morning it was humorous to see all the cars with out of state plates and skis on the top make their way down Rt. 26 on their way home from Sunday River.

The snow was soft and craveable and after 2pm we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was refreshing not having to get up at the crack of dawn to ski. The price was right ($35 afternoon ticket) and we had a blast! One of our best days of the year.

Rumour has it old man winter might make a return to Maine in a week or so. Maybe, just maybe. And maybe Saddleback will... ummm... nevermind.

Go Snow!

Always fun skiing with my wife and son!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Black Mountain of Maine - Opening December 30th!

Black Mountain of Maine is one of our favorite 'mid-major' ski mountains. A modern triple chairlift services over 1,200 feet of vertical, some great blue cruisers and with the help of the volunteer Angry Beavers of Black Mountain they have made Black a gladed terrain destination.

This is by far the best deal in Maine. $15 Fridays and $29 weekend / holidays. With snow in the forecast for Tuesday this should be a great opening day!

Along with the alpine skiing, they have a world-class nordic facility, a very comfortable base lodge with a pub, a tubing hill and night-skiing.

In support of the mountain, we created a 30 second promo video using some of our past footage. Please watch below and share with your friends.

We highly encourage you to check out Black Mountain in Rumford this year! Well worth the trip!

And you can check out the latest trail and glade maps below:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

COMMENTARY - Thoughts on Saddleback Passholder Options

Saddleback made an announcement on Friday December 18th giving hope a sale will be completed
Hopeful this will happen again this winter!
soon and a late January opening is possible. This is good news, but the reality is that the sale is not final, and there is a lot of work to do complete the sale and get the mountain open. Recognizing this, the current and prospective owner they have given current passholders 3 options for this winter.

100% RefundAt any time from now until opening day, if you wish to not wait any longer you may request your season pass refund

This is the biggest news of the announcement. For folks that want to (or have already made plans) to ski elsewhere this winter, they now have an out card and can get their money back. Both Sugarloaf/Sunday River and Shawnee Peak have special season pass rates for folks that have purchased Saddleback season passes. In Shawnee's case, they are marketing a Season Pass to last year's passholders too.

I want to commend the Berry's for offering this refund option prior to the sale going through.

For those looking to hang in there with their Saddleback pass there are two options:

Keep pass and receive 50% bonus - By waiting for opening day, you will receive an additional 50% resort credit bonus added to your season pass that can be used anywhere in the resort:  food, tickets, lessons, rentals, seasonal locker rentals, future season or day passes etc. This may be used this year or next.

Convert Pass to Gift Card + 50% Bonus - The amount of your pass purchase will be placed on a gift card and by waiting for opening day you will receive an additional 50% resort credit bonus that can be used anywhere in the resort:  food, tickets, lessons, rentals, seasonal locker rentals,  future season or day passes etc. This may be used this year or next.

Both options have positive's and negatives and you have to assess your own situation to see what works for you. It is important to note if you convert your pass to a gift card you are giving up the pre-season rates. That is if you buy a pass later this season it will be at the published price.

@MaineSkiFamily's advice?

If you need your money back go ahead and get it now. Just keep an eye on Saddleback and if it opens, make a day trip or two (or more) this year and make plans for 2016-2017 season pass back at Saddleback.

For those looking to hang in there, wait a bit and see if the sale goes through. Three things could happen.

  • Absolute worst case and unlikely scenario, the sale collapses and Saddleback does not open, you get your money back. 
  • Saddleback sale happens and a January opening date is announced; the Keep pass and receive 50% bonus will probably be the best option. I see lots of opening day PBR's flowing at the Swig-n-Smelt with this option. :-)
  • Saddleback sale happens but opening is delayed into February; then the Convert Pass to Gift Card + 50% Bonus becomes more of an consideration. You basically have to decide how much you are going to ski Saddleback this season and see if the math / money works for you.
Once the official word of the sale and opening date are announced, you can do what is best for your situation.

So despite this horrendously warm weather, we still have a need to ski between now and when Saddleback hopefully opens. For those hanging in there with their Saddleback season pass, you may not want to spend a pile of money on lift tickets. Here are options you can consider:

Buy a Shawnee Peak Season Pass at $150. This is a very nice mountain and at this price, you only have to ski there three times to have the pass pay for itself. As of this writing (December 20) they are open for the season.

Ski Black Mountain of Maine - $15 Friday / $29 Saturday. This place reminds me a lot of Saddleback. Great family vibe, fun trails with +1,300 ft vertical drop, good learning area, outstanding nordic trails, very nice base lodge, reasonable ticket prices and some outstanding gladed terrain. You can ski here affordably and get an outstanding community mountain experience. If you think you might ski here 10 times or so a season pass may make sense too. As of this writing they are hoping to open December 26.

Our other favorite mid-sized mountain is Mt. Abram. I don't believe they are offering any deals to Saddleback passholders, but when the snow is on, the terrain at Mt. Abram is really good. Definitely worth a day-trip or two regardless of your pass status. As of this writing (December 20) they are open.

There are lots of great ski areas in Maine. Check them out!

So this Saddleback situation is still quite challenging. When this is all settled, it will make an interesting business school case study. While we understand the frustration of many, @MaineSkiFamily chooses not to look backward but look ahead. We will play the hand that we are dealt and trust it will all work out for Saddleback somehow. For now, we just need some snow!!! 

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the blog comment section or on our Facebook page